UEFA president Ceferin tells soccer fans how they can win the war against racists

AP , Friday 23 Jun 2023

Soccer fans were told Thursday to play their part in driving racism out of the sport.

UEFA president
UEFA president Ceferin tells soccer fans how they can win the war against racists. Photo: AP


Following the sickening abuse received by players like Real Madrid star Vinicius Junior, UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin called on supporters to identify offenders.

“Let’s work together to put our house in order and ban from our stadiums (anyone) who comes not for love of football like you, but for the hatred for others,” he said during a speech at the European Football Fans’ Congress in Manchester.

Vinícius, who is Black, has been the target of sustained racist abuse by fans in Spanish stadiums. An effigy of the Brazil international was hung from a bridge in Madrid in January and he has been subjected to repeated racist taunts.

There are also a growing number of players being targeted on social media.

Soccer's ruling bodies have been called upon to do more to combat racism. Čeferin said fans need to step up as well.

“Will you help us rid the game of people who hide in the crowd in order to pour out messages of hate because of a player’s skin color or sexual orientation?” he said Thursday. “We must shout, call out and rid ourselves of these idiots, who discredit both football and you the fans."

The head of European soccer’s ruling body also condemned abuse aimed at officials, such as referee Anthony Taylor, who was targeted after the Europa League final.

“I will never accept the kind of threats and intimidation and violence that some people are subjected to as we saw just recently,” he said.

Čeferin also addressed issues witnessed at this year's Champions League final after fans were caught up in gridlocked traffic around the Atatürk Olympic Stadium in Istanbul.

There were reports that some supporters had to get out of buses and walk for miles ahead of Manchester City's 1-0 win against Inter Milan in European club soccer's biggest game on June 10, with problems after the final as well.

“We are well aware that in Istanbul not everything was perfect. And I am certainly not playing down the problems encountered by some," Čeferin said, but added that UEFA is working to improve the treatment of supporters.

“I’m thinking in particular transport links to and from the stadium, the hosting of the stadium supporters and access to water and toilets for everyone,” he said. "I can assure you that next year’s Champions League final at Wembley and Euro 2024 in Germany will be a unique experience for fans.

“On the whole this year’s finals in Budapest, Prague, Eindhoven and indeed Helsinki went well."

Čeferin apologized to soccer fans after the chaotic security failures that caused a near-disaster at the Champions League final in Paris last year.

“We would love to erase events that happened last year from our memories,” he said. “Last year everyone welcomed our decision to move the finals from St. Petersburg to Paris and in the end we all know what happened. Good intentions are many times not enough and we know that and we are sorry for that.”

Investigators held UEFA mostly responsible for the failed security operation at the 2022 Champions League final that put the lives of Liverpool and Real Madrid fans at risk.

Tens of thousands of fans were held in increasingly crushed queues for hours before the game at the 75,000-capacity Stade de France. Many fans were fired on with tear gas by police.

(For more sports news and updates, follow Ahram Online Sports on Twitter at @AO_Sports and on Facebook at AhramOnlineSports.)

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